Anna’s mission is to make weather research useful for the people of East Greenland

Anna Burdenski is spending ten months in Tasiilaq because she wants to understand life in the town. She is building cooperation between the locals and international climate researchers to ensure that the weather data generated by the researchers will be relevant for the locals experiencing the weather.

 

Af Signe Ravn-Højgaard

 

In the outskirts of Tasiilaq, Anna Burdenski and her local research assistant are digging a deep hole in the snow. It is the end of February, and this year the East Greenlandic town has had exceptional amounts of snow. Anna had to buy an extra stick to extend the pole she made for measuring snow depth. 

 

Although neither Anna nor the research assistant are climate scientists, they measure snow for the Snow2Rain research project. They will send the data to their climatologist colleagues in Austria, who will then analyse it along with a lot of other weather data. 

 

Researching the affects of the weather

The purpose is to compare these measurements with climate models to find out how well models can predict the future weather and snow conditions in the Tasiilaq area.

The Snow2Rain project investigates how environmental changes manifest in the Tasiilaq area and how this affects the ways of living and quality of life of the inhabitants of East Greenland. To do this, the Snow2Rain researchers from the University of Vienna and the University of Graz collect physical measurements as well as learn from local people and their expertise about the weather.

 

Anna Burdenski, who is a Ph.D. candidate in anthropology at the University of Vienna, is mainly studying local perceptions of the future in East Greenland and how environmental changes affect the ways of life in East Greenland.

“Helping out in the museum has been valuable for my research and my experiences in Tasiilaq,”
Anna Burdenski

 

In order to better understand the local community and everyday life in Eastern Greenland, Anna is spending ten months in Tasiilaq doing fieldwork for her Ph.D. dissertation. She has offered to volunteer at the local museum to help prepare it for re-opening.

 

“Helping out in the museum has been valuable for my research and my experiences in Tasiilaq because it has been a way to become part of the local community. I am engaging with the people here on a daily basis,” Anna says.

Local involvement in research

In conversations in East Greenland, the weather is a prominent theme, especially current weather conditions with the extreme snowfall this year. How far out is the sea ice safe now? It might be possible to go hunting towards the glacier today. Where is it possible to go fishing by boat now? Anna notes down these conversations. She is trying to find out what these everyday conversations about the weather say about peoples’ perceptions of the changes in the weather. 

An important part of Anna’s work in Tasiilaq is to facilitate cooperation between the local community and the Snow2Rain climate researchers. 

 

“Local engagement in the Snow2Rain project is very important. By involving the local people, we hope to ensure that the research can be relevant to their everyday life. We aim to adapt the research to what the local people need,” she explains. 

 

“Is it the long-term predictions that are relevant for the locals, or is it more important to know about the wind factor or something else? A lot of data exists, and there might be other ways of modeling and using the data than is currently being down, which could be more useful for the people.”

Useful for hunters and tourists

For example, from conversations with the locals, Anna found out that up-to-date satellite images or maps of glaciers might be useful, so the hunters, as well as tourists, will know where they can go. As the climate changes, the glaciers shrink, new routes become accessible, and the maps become outdated. 

 

In a few months, the Snow2Rain researchers will conduct a workshop in Tasiilaq where they will present their preliminary findings and discuss with the locals how they can integrate local perspectives and needs into the weather research to make it useful for the people who experience the weather.

 

Anna Burdenski is a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Vienna and part of the Snow2Rain project. Read more about the Snow2Rain project here

 

Photo credits
All photos by: Anna Burdenski & Jorrit van der Schot